Parashat Ki Tavo

Discovering The Relationship Between Curses And Blessings

By viewing the troubles and joys of our lives as part of a continuum we can uncover blessings even in the most challenging curses.

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The Baal Shem Tov was enraptured by his intuition that evil concealed a seed of the good; yet the good and the holy might at times be pregnant with unpremeditated evil.… The Baal Shem Tov taught that evil was a temporary manifestation of the as-yet-hidden good; it had a subsidiary function, acting as a kind of footstool to the good. His concern was to liberate the good within the evil.… The Baal Shem Tov stressed the necessity for transforming “evil” into “good,” the unholy into the holy. To him, then, “Depart from evil and do good” (Psalms 34:15) meant “Convert evil into good” (Abraham Joshua Heschel, A Passion for Truth, Jewish Lights Publishing, 1995, p. 40).

We must never forget that we may also find meaning in life even when confronted with a hopeless situation, when facing a fate that cannot be changed. For what then matters is to bear witness to the uniquely human potential at its best, which is to transform a personal tragedy into a triumph, to turn one’s predicament into a human achievement. When we are no longer able to change a situation--just think of an incurable disease such as inoperable cancer--we are challenged to change ourselves (Victor E. Frankl, Man’s Search for Meaning, Washington Square Press, 1984, p. 135).

Daniel Pearl…dedicated his life to bringing joy and understanding to the world…. The Daniel Pearl Foundation was formed…by Danny’s family and friends…in memory of journalist Daniel Pearl to further the ideals that inspired Daniel’s life and work. The foundation’s mission is to promote cross-cultural understanding through journalism, music, and innovative communications (www.danielpearl.com).

Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl was kidnapped while tracking down a lead on Richard Reid, the shoe-bomber suspect. He was later murdered in Pakistan. Ann Curry, the cohost of Today, asked [Daniel Pearl’s parents],“What is it that you want to say about your son that takes us beyond seeing him as just a victim?.… How…have you been able to find this way of finding good in what horrible malice was done against your son?” Mrs. Pearl [Daniel Pearl’s mother, Ruth] said, “This--this was a survival technique. We couldn’t survive if we didn’t have some kind of goal, some kind of legacy for Danny to continue his work, even after his death” (Today, NBC, June 25, 2002).

Your Guide

In Numbers 23:25, Balak sought to have the wicked sorcerer Balaam curse the Israelites so that they would not pose a threat to his people. How was Balaam’s intended curse turned into a blessing? Did Balaam turn the curse around on his own, or did he receive help?

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Andrew F. Klein is the assistant rabbi of Hevreh of Southern Berkshire, Great Barrington, Mass.